October 19 2016
This new hydro-generator - by Watt&Sea - is part of the one million euro per boat refit process currently underway in Lisbon, and an important milestone in the quest to become energy-neutral on the race course.
All eight boats, the seven from the last edition, and the new one being built at Persico Marine shipyard in Italy, will feature the unit, which can already provide enough power to run the essential onboard systems in the event of mechanical failure.
Depending on the results of continued pre-race testing, its use could be mandatory at times during the 2017-18 edition in order to provide results during real-world race conditions and begin to reduce the amount of fuel used by the boats for their electronic systems.
One boat has already been installed with the unit for testing, and the results is considered as significant, according to the Race’s Director of Boats and Maintenance, Nick Bice : “In the last few years, we’ve been working hard on alternative energy,” he explained. The hydro-generator is effectively a propeller which you drop over the back of the boat, similar to a small outboard, which spins around with the water flowing, generating electricity to be fed back to the batteries on the boat. Our tests have shown no noticeable impact on speed performance in terms of increase of drag. The results have been positive enough to convince me there’s no reason why in the future we can’t be energy neutral on the race course.”
Liz Wardley, a two-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran who recently completed a delivery of one of the Volvo Ocean 65s, explained to Yachting Art: “We’ve sailed about 3,500 miles with the hydro-generator on the back of the boat and during that time we didn’t have to turn on the engine. That’s saying a lot, as normally, we’d run the engine for an hour to an hour-and-a-half every day. We’ve proved what it can do, and now we just need to prove its reliability not just as a back-up power source, but a primary one.”